“Did you hear that Texas just voted to legalize marijuana?”

Do you know how many times I have heard that question in the last week, since the House passed House Bill 63?  So many times, that I am going to answer it here and then respond with “Please see my blog post.”

First, Texas has not legalized marijuana.

The House introduced House Bill 63 that would reduce the penalty range for possessing one ounce of marijuana or less.

The current law punishes possession of a useable quantity of marijuana but less than two ounces as a Class B misdemeanor, and is punishable by up to 6 months in the county jail.

This Bill would reduce possession of less than one ounce of marijuana to a class c offense. An officer could not arrest a suspect for this new class c offense, only write a ticket.  And this new offense would be punishable by a fine up to $250. However, a suspect could be arrested if they were committing another offense, such as DWI or Theft.

And here is the surprise, no other possession of marijuana offenses would be effected by this new Bill. Everything else stays the same for every possession of marijuana higher than one ounce. It is still a felony to possess more than four ounces.  It is still a felony to possess over an ounce within 1,000 feet of property owned, rented or leased to a school, a youth center, a playground or school bus. And that class C goes back to being an arrested able Class A offense if you possess it within 1,000 feet of property owned, rented or leased to a school, a youth center, a playground or school bus.

So how many cases are we actually reducing the punishment for?

Second, the House voted on this Bill and has now passed it over to the Senate. The Senate has to debate it, they can change it many times over, then vote on it.  If it passes the Senate, then it goes back to the House. The House then looks at it and says “wait, they changed it  and we don’t like it anymore.” If that’s the case the House can ask the Senate for a Conference Committee and try to resolve their disputes and come up with an approved version. If on the other hand, the House says “yea we can live with this version” the Bill is then signed by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor. Then the Governor has it. He can sign it, veto it, or ignore it and then it becomes law within 10 days.

Mind you all of this is going on with a deadline looming. The 86th Legislative Session ends on May 27th.

Third, if the stars align and everything happens within the next two weeks, this new law may not go into effect until September 1, 2019. AND it may not be retroactive, meaning it doesn’t go back and undue ever case that was charged before September 1st.

So the moral of the story….marijuana is still not legal in Texas and you still need to defend yourself against the case you have now, with the law that is in effect now. We’d be happy to help you at the Law Office of Elizabeth Whited.